The Marine Protected Areas of Kenya Part III: Challenges

Not all Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Kenya are successful. Perhaps because one of the biggest challenges is ineffective management. The majority of the coastal communities, particularly fishermen, have had negative attitudes towards the establishment of MPAs which has in turn resulted into resource use conflict between Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), the appointed government wildlife protection organisation (or agency) and local communities. Diani-Chale Marine Reserve is still not effectively managed 25 years after it was gazetted as a result of opposition by the local communities!

Fishers have often felt marginalised in favour of other groups, such as hoteliers, divers and tourism operators. Although tourism helps in funding the park operations, it has not provided a significant source of livelihood to the fisher communities that have been displaced when establishing an MPA. The problem often lies with the fact that there are minimal community involvement and a lack of participatory process that takes into account the interests and concerns of the community.

Even though one of the benefits of MPA’s is the provision of spillover of an exploited species, this can however take years before the community can reap its benefits. Even more so, higher spillover mostly occurs from boundaries with better fisheries management, but creating an effective management programme is costly. The implementation of MPAs in Kenya is difficult largely because of poverty, poor planning and lack of coordination. The displacement of communities, lack of compensation measures, and lack of time and money to engage all the stakeholders in public participation have all been stated as the main reasons challenging the management of MPAs in Kenya.

However, over recent years, management of MPAs has continued to improve. There has been increased consultation of KWS with communities and other stakeholders. This has increased compliance from the community followed by a significant rise in community-managed MPAs in Kenya known as Community Conservation Areas (CCAs) or Local Marine Management Areas (LMMAs) locally known as ‘tengefu’. The country’s first community-based marine protected area, Kuruwitu Conservation and Welfare Association (KCWA) was initiated by the local community following concerns over an increasing decline in fish and coral cover in their local inshore fishing area. 

A small (two square kilometres) no-take zone was effectively established around Kuruwitu’s primary fishery landing site. Local community members were then charged with policing the beach and ensuring the laws were enforced. Today, KCWA fisheries management plan has become a model for other communities to follow. The no-take zone has been met with great biodiversity success with studies showing an increase in coral cover by nearly 30% of hard coral species and 12% of seagrass species with an increase in fish biomass by an estimated 400%! The spillover effect of this fish boom has also been felt on all the adjacent fishing grounds, increasing yields for all fishermen!


In the case of KCWA, devolving control and power to the local people promotes empowerment and ownership over resources, leading to a greater likelihood of resources being conserved and managed effectively. Partnerships between management, users, researchers and educators are also critical in determining the success or failure of MPAs.  Most importantly, creating awareness on the importance of MPAs, educating both local and international tourists on the importance and uses of MPAs are all beneficial in funding management and improving livelihoods for local communities. So if you are wondering how to enjoy your holiday season, why not visit a marine protected area here in Kenya or better yet an LMMA and enjoy the bounties of biodiversity within these areas! To learn more please visit!

Here is a list of some LMMAs in Kenya!

LMMAsManagement Status
Kuruwitu   no take zone
Tiwi (Nyari)no take zone
Msambwenigear restriction
Wasiniseasonal closure
Kibuyunigear Restriction /no take zone
Mkwirogear restriction
Burenino take zone
Kanamaino take zone
Mkwakwani/Tradewindsgear restriction
Shimonigear restriction
Jimbogear restriction
Vangagear restriction
Majorenigear restriction
Kiweni, Lamugear restriction


Maina GW, Osuka K, Samoilys M (2011) Opportunities and challenges of community-based marine protected areas in Kenya. Mombasa, Kenya: CORDIO East Africa.

The effectiveness of management of marine protected areas in Kenya. In A report prepared for the international tropical marine environment management symposium, Manila, Philippines (Vol. 1, No. 0).

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